Charities 'don't invest enough to keep pace with digital developments'

YouthNet chief executive Emma Thomas says more collaboration with the commercial sector is vital to prevent charities from falling behind

Emma Thomas
Emma Thomas

Many charities do not invest enough in technology to keep up with digital innovations, according to online young people’s charity YouthNet.

The charity said the sector should invest more in research and design in order to keep pace. Emma Thomas, chief executive of YouthNet, said in the statement: "Because budgets are increasingly tight, charities often aren’t allowed the space to experiment and take risks, and this can prevent us from keeping pace with advances in digital technology and hinder innovation.

"We believe that greater collaboration between the not-for-profit and commercial world is vital to ensure that a constant cycle of research and design develops technical innovations that generate further social value."

Thomas told Third Sector there was a huge appetite for technological innovation in the sector, but that with so many demands being placed on charities, they often found it difficult to prioritise the issue. "It’s not common in the sector to use up resources to work on things that might not come to fruition for a few years," she said. "It can be really hard."

Miles Maier, information and communication technology champion at advice charity Lasa, said: "Charities have to get smarter in how we deliver services because there are fewer resources."

He gave examples such as charities adding a frequently asked questions section to their websites, or using smartphone apps so that service users could find answers to problems without ringing the charity.

YouthNet is running an event called Cycle of Innovation on 16 April to discuss the importance of research and development in the sector. The event, which will take place at London’s Science Museum, is being held in partnership with telecoms company Ericsson and the social investment charity the Nominet Trust.

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